Today in honor of the NHL Draft, I kick off the inaugural series for Blog Huddle called Better Know a Blogger by interviewing Cassie McClellan from our Tampa Bay Lightning blog, Raw Charge. The purpose of this series is just to get you to know some of our bloggers a little better on a personal level since what you usually learn about each of them is only what you read through the blog.
I hope you enjoy it and if you have any suggestions for things you'd like to know from bloggers in the future, please feel free to comment below and let me know. Enjoy.
Blez: So tell me, how did you get into blogging? I know you have a deep sports background, so please share with SB Nation how you came to it.
Cassie: I just sort of fell into it, to be honest. I'd moved from Bellingham, Washington, to Tallahassee, Florida, for a job and started a personal blog for family and friends back home in Washington State to follow along with what I was doing. It was easier than emailing everyone once a week or so. It was only after I'd moved to Clearwater, Florida, in the Greater Tampa area that I started blogging about hockey.
Blez: When did you become a Tampa Bay Lightning fan?
Cassie: As a general sort of rule, I tend to follow players and not teams. I was introduced to hockey by watching major junior teams in the Western Hockey League, and a lot of those guys get drafted into the NHL. One of the teams I liked (I liked four of them at the time - including the local team in Tacoma which has since moved on to Kelowna, BC) was the Kamloops Blazers. In the earlier 90s, that team had quite a few guys that went on to play in the NHL: Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan, Darcy Tucker, Brad Lukowich, Jason Strudwick, and a few others. Obviously, one NHL team didn't draft all of those guys so I got into the habit early of following individuals.
But, back to Tampa. I'd followed the Vancouver Canucks for many years since they were the local team, but after I'd moved to Florida it was very hard to follow them because of the time difference. Games starting at 10:30 pm Eastern? A girl's got to sleep, you know. I'd followed the Philadelphia Flyers for a bit since my favorite player at the time, Peter Forsberg, was playing there. But when I'd moved to Clearwater, I settled on the Lightning mostly since they were across Tampa Bay (as in the body of water) from where I lived.
Blez: What other professional teams do you follow?
Cassie: Hockey takes up a lot of my time, but I love college football. I'm a big University of Washington Huskies fan. I also keep track of how the Seattle Mariners are doing, and nominally follow the Seattle Seahawks. The school I went to, Western Washington University, just cancelled their football program in January, so I'm also working with a group to try and reinstate the program.
Blez: What's the most rewarding aspect to being a blogger?
Cassie: I've made so many new friends blogging. I think that's been the best part. I've loved hockey for a long, long time but my friends were never really into it. One of my older sisters likes it as well, but when she got married she sort of fell away from the sport since her family takes up a lot of her time. So finding people who are as obsessed with it as I am has been great. I finally have people to talk hockey with that love it as much as I do.
Blez: What's the hardest part about being a blogger?
Cassie: Sometimes it's finding things to write about. Although the Lightning have been such an...interesting...team that that part's been pretty easy. But on the flip side, sometimes there's too much to write about and it's difficult to narrow it down. Other times it's finding the time and motivation to write. I suppose that's like any kind of field where people feel obligated to put words on paper on a regular basis. Whether you love doing it or not, it's still an obligation - a commitment, if you will.
Blez: Is it ever strange or awkward to be involved in such a male-dominated endeavor such as sports blogging?
Cassie: Not really. I pretty much go into it expecting that nobody will take me seriously simply because I'm a woman. It comes from growing up in an environment where the only ambitions a woman was supposed to have were to get married and have children. And if a woman liked sports, then she must be in it to date the players and not because she liked the sport itself. I grew up in a very rural area of Western Washington - near a logging town - where if you weren't married by the time you were 22 years old, then you were considered an old maid.
A lot of women feel that they have something to prove in that kind of environment, but I never have. I just do my own thing and ignore what people have to say about it. It helps that I'm a tall woman (I'm 5'9"), too, and that I used to play sports. About the only thing I'm a sensitive about is making sure that the men I interact with don't think I'm trying to pick up on them.
Blez: How do you decide what you're going to write about and how do you work with John Fontana, your co-blogger over at RawCharge.com?
Cassie: John and I email and/or instant message each other every single day talking about the blog. We run ideas past each other, give ideas to each other, make sure we're not both posting the same stuff, and proofread each other's work. It's been absolutely fantastic working with him. Having someone to bounce ideas off of has really helped my writing, I think. I'm very thankful that he asked me to participate with him in this venture.
Blez: Do you find a lot of hardcore Bolts fans out there?
Cassie: Yes and no. We started up the blog very late in the season - in March - so not very many people have found it yet. The ones who have are very passionate about the team, and I expect the fans who will find the blog in the fall to be the same as well.
Tampa has this image around the league as not being a hockey town when it really is. There's this mistaken belief that the majority of the fans are Snowbirds coming down from Canada, and that's just not at all the case. The majority of fans are much younger, probably 40 years old and below. But just like anywhere else, they'll only go to games if the team is doing well.
Blez: You must be excited about the nice draft position, especially after just getting Stamkos last year.
Cassie: You know, I was just discussing this with John. I'm not one to get excited about the draft. Or prospects, either, for that matter. The majority of those kids never make it to the NHL, for one. And for another, just because they did well in junior hockey doesn't guarantee that they'll do well in the NHL. When they step on NHL ice is when I start taking a serious interest in them. Until then, I think that everyone and everything is way overhyped.
Having said that, I dread how this draft is going to play out. With Tampa Bay's ownership squabbles, and their unpredictable and often illogical moves, I'm really hoping that they do what's best for the team in the long run. Because that's what the draft is about - the long run. It's not about the quick fix, which is how the Lightning have ran the team so far. And the long run doesn't look very nice at the moment. Neither does the short run, to be honest.
But if the hockey gods are kind and they should get Hedman, he should be able to play in the NHL right away. Even still, he won't be an impact player for a few years. And if the hockey gods do not favor the Lightning, well, it could be messy drafting a third franchise center onto the team.
Blez: What do you enjoy doing outside of blogging?
Cassie: You mean there's a life outside of blogging? When did that happen? And why didn't John tell me about it?
Oh, you know, the regular stuff. I love listening to music, going hiking out in the woods, reading books, chatting and hanging out with friends, traveling around and finding new places - the usual.
Blez: Tell me about your day job.
Cassie: The short answer is that I make maps. Which isn't entirely accurate, but it's easier for people to understand. My job title is Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist, which people have a hard time wrapping their heads around.
I have a degree in geography, and I do make maps upon occasion, but mostly I work with the data behind the maps. I create, edit, manage, and proof read data. Mostly, it's my job to make sure it's all correct.
So, for instance, you want to map roads. I can create the roads layer; attribute it with road names, route numbers, lengths/distances, number of lanes, surface type, number of cars on it per month, etc.; go back in and change any and all of that information; chop it up into little pieces and put it back together; do statistical analysis on it; slap it on a map and change the symbols to correspond with the number of lanes; do some testing to check that it's right; shift the lines so that they fall where they're supposed to; and a few other things. And that's with just roads. That all applies to anything you can put on a map; with different attributes, of course.
Blez: What's the last movie you saw? How about the last great movie and the worst movie?
Cassie: I'm not a big movie person. I know, that's so wrong, right? It's not that I don't like movies; I just never think about going to them. They're not really on my radar. If someone wants to go, then I'm all for going, but it's not on my top ten list of things to go do when I'm bored.
The last movie that I saw in theaters was probably Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, but I'm not positive about that. It sounds right, though. I like old movies a lot (and by "old" I mean made before 1960), so I'll occasionally turn on the TV and see what's on Turner Classic Movies. The last great movie I saw was probably His Girl Friday (Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell; 1940). The last worst movie I saw was probably...I don't know. Apparently it was so bad that I immediately forgot about it after I saw it.
Blez: Is there something that your blog readers might find shocking to know about you?
Cassie: I asked my friend Aparna this question, and this was her response:
"...the way I see it you are not afraid to speak your mind even if it is not "socially" acceptable, so perhaps people think...she does not look that type at all?"
But I'd expect that the people who read our blog have caught on to that by now. I would think that would be pretty obvious. You'd have to hope, anyways, right?
So let's see...shocking.... Probably the fact that I'm mechanically inclined. Meaning, I drive a 1968 Ford Falcon, and I know how to fix it when it breaks. It's not something that I enjoy doing, but I have a trunk full of tools and do know how to do it.
I was on my way to hockey practice (my own) one day when the entire throttle assembly popped off the firewall. I coasted into the rink and found some screws that fit - ice rink screws that hold the plastic on to the boards, incidentally - and proceeded to put the throttle assembly back where it belonged. The guys at the rink were giving me strange looks afterwards as I walked thru the building with engine grease smeared on my hands and arms.
Thanks for the time, Cassie. I can speak for many hockey fans when I say that both you and John Fontana have brought something great to the hockey blogosphere.